Democratic Audit of Russia: Part I. The Parliament

We are falling head over hills from the category of "partially free" states into the category of "non-free" countries

The "Public Expertise" Institute has summed up the first stage of the large scale research project named the "Democratic Audit of Russia".

The aim of the project is to define a place of today's Russia on a scale of democratic development. National democratic audit is not our invention. Such kind of "thermometers" defining democratic degree of the country already exist in the Great Britain, Sweden and other countries of the world. The World Democratic Audit information reports are published annually. According to the estimations of "Freedom House", one of the most known "measuring instruments of freedom", till now Russia was included into a category of "partially free" countries.

Preliminary results of national democratic audit of the country conducted by the "Public Expertise" Institute, compel to bring an attention to the question of changing the diagnosis: Russia rolls down into the category of "non-free" countries. The transfer from "ward of patients" into "ward of gravely ill patients" is done on the basis of several symptoms. In Russia actually there is no separation of powers; there was a return to one-party system in which the Soviet hybrid: the party - the state is formed again, parliamentary opposition is actually absent, and there is a nationalization of a civil society process going on.

The establishment of the diagnosis is not a game of words and not putting labels, but the procedure necessary for mobilization of internal resources of the country and also for our partners abroad to correctly understand what they collide when dealing with our country.

In the summer of 2005 the IV Russian Duma finished three from eight sessions put to it, i.e. has lived more than 1/3 of term afforded to it. And, in spite of the fact that even more than half of time still remains, it is already clear how it represents itself as parliament and with what it will enter the history of the Russian parliamentarism, and what it has made with Russia for one and a half year.

The I State Duma worked only two years, but for this term, twice smaller than for the subsequent one, the first Russian parliament has passed the fundamental laws defining a basis public legal relations - the Civil Code of the Russian Federation and the Family Code of the Russian Federation, basic laws in sphere of the state system - "On the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation" and "On Control Chamber of the Russian Federation".

If the I Duma was mainly legislative, the second has been doomed to political struggle, being like the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation in 1992 - 1993, in a rigid confrontation with executive powers. Legislative activity of deputies of the second convocation in a significant part was rejected by the President. And much that was accepted does not maintain democratic audit. For example, the Criminal Code adopted.

The III Duma there was a propresidential majority that, certainly, stimulated legislative process, rather fruitful, though unequivocal. The great bulk of the accepted laws causes objections from the point of view of conformity to public interests (the Labor Code, UPK, GPK, KoAP, reform of judicial system, pension reform, the Law "On citizenship of the Russian Federation", the law on import of nuclear waste).

The III Duma began process of pushing out democratic institutes and verticalization of political system: the Council of Federation has been transformed into fiction, the draconian law on political parties was accepted, local self-government was built in an imperious vertical.

The IV Duma is the successor of the third one. But the tendencies which already reached their limit in the III Duma, were driven to the grotesque by the parliament elected in 2003, which was expressed by the speaker of the present Duma, Mr. Boris Gryzlov: "the State Duma is not a place for political debates".

It is possible to name nine basic characteristics of the IV State Duma in comparison with its three predecessors.

First. During formation of the IV State Duma the maximal distortion of will of voters has been admitted. One of principles of democracy is equality of representation: "one person - one vote". For an estimation of observance of this principle in comparative political science usually the parameter called "amplitudes of distortion"1 is used: comparison of shares of the votes received by parties and shares of the places distributed in parliament.
"The amplitude of distortion" for four Russian parliaments is reflected in the table

Terms of authority
Amplitude of distortion
By elected into Duma
By all participants in election
I Duma
1993 1995
II Duma
1995 1999
III Duma
1999 2003
IV Duma
2003 till now

Essence of these figures is that some parties have appeared "underrepresented" in the State Duma in comparison with percentage of votes, and others were "overrepresented". Record of "overrepresentation" in history of the Russian parliamentarism belongs to the party "Edinaya Rossiya", which has received 37, 6 % of votes in elections to the IV State Duma and has got 67,6 % of places in the lower house. Distortion of a principle "one person - one vote" reached its extreme. Each supporter of "Edinaya Rossiya" actually received two votes. Each communist, member of "Rodina" and "LDPR" has today less than one vote, and members of "Yabloko", representatives of the "right", "agrarians" and other parties, in general appeared unvoiced the nearest 4 years. Distortions of will of voters appears on any elections in any parliament of the world. But what happened in elections of 2003 applies for a world record. There was a deprivation of the political rights of almost two thirds of citizens. 80 years ago, under the Constitution of 1924, 15 categories of citizens have been deprived of the rights. Today the "deprived" people became such not under the law, but in fact.

Second. The IV State Duma became first actually one-party Russian parliament after liquidation of the Communist Party. The majority of systems of measurement of democracy2 uses such parameters, as level of monopolism of party in power in parliament, a reality of a political competition and a share of votes in the parliament, received by opposition. Comparing four Russian State Dumas on these parameters, we shall receive a following picture:

  Terms of authority Ruling party (% of voters) Allies (% of voters) % voters received by ruling party together with allies Opposition parties, coalitions (% of voters) % of votes received by opposition
I Duma
1993 1995
Vybor Rossiy (17,11%)
PRES (6,67%)
KPRF (10%)
APR (12,22%)
Y-B-L Block. (5,78%)
DPR (3,33%)
II Duma 1995 1999 NDR (14,67%)   14,67% KPRF (32,22%) 42,44%
Yabloko (10,22%)
III Duma 1999 2003 Edinstvo (18,44%) Regiony Rossiy (10,16%) 53,70% KPRF (18,22%) 29,11%
OVR (11,56%) Narodniy Deputat (13,54%) Yabloko (3,78%)
SPS (7,11%)
IV Duma 2003-till now Edinaya Rossiya (67,56%) LDPR (7,78%) 75,34% KPRF (10,44%) 19,33%

Thus, for the first time in history of the newest parliamentarism, the one-party parliament in which the opposition has no even decorative functions, was generated in 2004

If in first two State Dumas the progovernmental parties, having together less than fifth share of votes, were compelled to coordinate their plans with opposition, to negotiate and search for compromises, i.e. to be engaged in real parliamentary work, in the III Duma this work was reduced to a minimum, and in the IV Duma essentially and consciously liquidated.

Third. Elections to the IV Duma were utmost dishonest and unfair. The state TV channels showed an obvious skew in favor of "Edinaya Rossiya" and against the Communist Party of the Russian Federation that were compelled to recognize even the Central Electoral Committee which was limited to address the precautionary letter to the heads of TV channels. The indirect reaction of citizens to injustice of election campaign was showed in the highest percent, for all newest history of parliamentarism in Russia, of the citizens which voted against all candidates.

Terms of authority
Against all candidates,%
I Duma
1993 1995
II Duma
1995 1999
III Duma
1999 2003
IV Duma
2003 till now

Fourth. The IV State Duma became the only House of the Russian parliament. Since 2004 the Federal Assembly became actually unicameral.

This statement is based on two circumstances. First, if in the previous parliament the "sieve" of the upper house still somehow influenced work of the lower one, the present State Duma during passing of laws, does not take Council of Federation into account at all. Secondly, the Council of Federation became illegitimate after a canceling of elections of governors. Half of members of the Russian senate are appointed by governors who are appointed in turn by the President. Contrary to the Constitution, exactly half of members of Council of Federation has nothing to do with subjects of federation which they "represent". When Ms. Narusova, lady from St. - Petersburg, and Mr. Pugachev, the banker from the same city, both "represent" the Tuva region, it is difficult to call such house of Parliament as "representative". It is more similar to formation of any enforcement authority.

Fifth. Judging by character of functioning and new "regulations" the IV State Duma has lost attributes of parliament and was transformed to authority body. This transformation has occurred as a result of following changes in the rules and in practice of work of the State Duma:

- The State Duma Council has been turned from coordinating into supervising body;
- The Duma committees are transformed into filters of political activity of deputies;
- The total control over legislative process from "Edinaya Rossiya" which is in turn totally supervised by Administration of the President of the Russian Federation, has led to the situation when the center of acceptance of legislative decisions has moved to Administration;
- In the IV State Duma, contrary to the Constitution of the Russian Federation, liquidation of participation of legislative assemblies of regions in legislative process has been practically completed;
- The IV State Duma works almost twice faster than previous ones. As a result fatal decisions are stamped for one day, not being not only comprehended, but even read through.

Sixth. During 2004 and the beginning of 2005, the State Duma changed bases of political building of Russia and made actually anticonstitutional revolution. It has occurred following the acceptance of following laws:

- Federal Law (FL) of 11th December 2004 has deprived peoples of rights to elect heads of subjects of the Russian Federation, and by this law the Duma has managed to break three main of a principles of the Constitution: democracy, federalism and separation of authorities;
- FL from 20th December 2004 has created insuperable barriers on a way of political parties;
- FL "On the Referendum" of 28th June 2004 has actually deprived peoples of rights to a referendum;
- FL "About elections of State Duma" from 18th May 2005 has actually deprived people's rights to choose the deputies;
- An establishment of the presidential control over Control Chamber and transition of Ministry of Justice under direct presidential management means anticonstitutional redistribution of authority in favor of the President.

Seventh. The IV State Duma authorized creation of an unknown geometrical figure: vertical of a civil society. FL of 4th April 2005 "On Public chamber of the Russian Federation" creates actually the "Ministry of a civil society", a gravestone pressing down already weak structures of public and law-defending organizations.

Eighth. Notorious FL 122 of the 22nd August 2004, known among people under the name "About monetization of privileges", has actually destroyed the social state in Russia, as a matter of fact having cancelled corresponding clause of the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

Ninth. The dominating type of the deputy of the State Duma has changed. If in first two parliaments there were deputies-politicians, deputies-lobbyists and deputies-legal experts, than the IV State Duma is dominated by three types of deputies: the deputy-official, the deputy-supernumerary and the deputy-phantom. In this structure the State Duma has completely disappeared law-defending and a humanitarian component.

And finally, it is possible to draw the main conclusion on the basis of these nine characteristics. Russia which in 1999 the majority of the international researchers refered to a category of "partially free" countries, basing on results of research of "Public examination" can be transferred into a category of the "non-free" countries together with Belarus, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

To this conclusion it is necessary to make three remarks. First, the given conclusion has only preliminary character, as long as the given research is only the first part of the project "Democratic audit of Russia", which is conducted by The "Public Expertise" Institute. It is necessary to finish the started similar researches on executive and judicial authority, freedom of media, trade unions, the political organizations, business, religious institutes, etc. Secondly, the transfer into category of "non-free countries" together with Belarus, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan does not mean identity with these countries. The political and civil device of these countries, certainly differs among themselves, and also the space of freedom, certainly, above due to greater integration into global processes and other factors is distinct from Russia. It is a question of a qualitative condition of "non-free country" which arises from set of nine characteristics mentioned above. Thirdly, Russia is the most heterogeneous country in the world. Kalmykia and the Perm area are in structure of one country, but live in different historical epoch; therefore general characteristics at a federal level are always conditional. In this connection the results of the project "Democratic audit of regions", which The "Public Expertise" plans to finish in October 2005, are of huge interest.

Igor Yakovenko
The "Public Expertise" Institute

1. The "amplitude of distortion" is defined as the sum of all differences of shares of votes received by parties from shares of places, received by these parties in parliament. Initial parameters for definition of this parameter are given in the Appendix 1.

2. Measurement of democracy as branch of comparative political science exists over 40 years. It is possible to consider Phillip Cartwright as the pioneer of this direction:"the degree of political development can be measured and each nation can be placed on a continuum of development that will allow comparing it to any other nation in the world". Of the greatest popularity in this area were annual publications of freedom index by "Freedom House", counted on the basis of an estimation of eight political rights and thirteen civil freedom in 192 states of the world.

© Public Expertise